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Joe MacDoaks

How much communications is enough?

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I try to communicate with parents as much as I can. I tell scouts to let their parents know about activities that are coming up. I have a calendar that goes out a year in the future for events that I know about. I send notes out for important activities, like summer camp and COH. I frequently call the SPL and ask him to call all the patrol leaders and let them know about upcoming activities and to communicate this to the scouts in their patrols.

 

Tonight I got a call from a parent that said she didn't know anything about a court of honor tommorrow and that she didn't have time to make anything. I told her to come anyway. She told me I don't communicate well enough with her. She remembered the note I sent home about a month ago but, she said she didn't remember she had to bring something or that the COH was set for Sunday. I pulled up the note and looked at it and it said what you needed to bring and when the COH was.

 

I just feel over worked on this. I am being asked by my CC to send notes home with the scouts after every meeting, to have a calendar for the year, to have an e-mail list and to send updates, and to call people everyone myself since some boys don't call everyone in their patrol.

 

I told my CC that this is just to much for the SM to have to do. I don't mind that the boys sometimes don't find out about stuff from other scouts. I think it teaches them to pick a better patrol leader. I also think that if I tell the scouts something at a scout meeting it is their responsibility to let their parents know about it. When I was a scout my SM never called my parents and we never got notes or calendars for the year.

 

What is a reasonable amount of communications from the SM to parents?

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Sit down with the troop committee chairperson and review the job description of the troop committee secretary. Then explain that you need the committee to do their role in supporting the program and you are relying on the chairperson to make that happen.

 

Then have a meeting with the ASPL and and the ASM for administration and ask them to work with the troop scribe too help keep the committee secretary informed of upcoming activities at least a month in advance.

 

Then take a deep breath and relax.

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It sounds a little bit like some responsibility needs to be placed on your youth. This is the kind of thing that happens when Johnnie doesn't bring his homework home from school. Somehow it's the teacher's fault that insufficient commication is causing their kid to flunk school.

 

I have a Yahoo Group with troop calendar on it. I post messages that go out to everyone who wishes to receive them in e-mail. I post their son's progress in advancement, I post a listing of all the kid's addresses and phone numbers, I invite all parents to become members of the group so they can get this information any time they need it. Then every PL trains his people to bring paper and pencil and to write things down, keep it in their handbooks and share with their parents. If the boy forgets and the parent has to call someone, it's the PL that fields the calls. With multiple patrols, I can't always keep track of what each one is up to what on any given night so I too have to refer to the troop calendar to find out the information. Usually the PL and/or parent just goes to the web page and that's the end of the issue.

 

This ploy by the parent is just an excuse to blame someone for their son's irresponsibility. Your CC is getting sucked into the process as well.

 

Stosh

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During my last term as Senior Patrol Leader (2005 before I aged out) my dad was the Scoutmaster. Between the two of us the committee and parents expected that we produce a monthly newsletter, upkeep a website, have Patrol Leader's call their Patrols, make weekly announcements at meetings, and send emails to all scouts, scouters, and parents.

 

It was at that point that I recruited 1 parent to do the newsletter, 1 parent to upkeep the website, have the Scoutmaster appoint an Assistant to send emails, and started to expect that the Patrol Leaders do the most important part of their job (communicate with members). At that point we decided that Patrol Leaders would need to communicate with their members (phone calls) or they would not have actively served in their position.

 

 

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I send out emails to the entire troop once monthly.

 

Most of our information is given to the boys EACH WEEK at our troop meetings. I have one parent who calls me and asks why she wasn't informed about something. I ask her did you ask your son? Her reply...you know he forgets before he gets home. In turn, I tell her that it is his responsibility to inform his parents of what is going on. This young man is a Life Scout, working on Eagle, and currently our SPL. HE needs to be more responsible. Sometimes I think that he doesn't want to do those particular activities and chooses not to tell mom and dad about them.

 

ccjj

 

 

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The reason everyone has so much problem with communication isn't the communication, it's the expectation of communication and how the scouts react to it.

 

If a national sports figure was going to be in town and the PR people put a blurp in the local newsrag, even though the boys never read the paper, the skuttlebutt would get around and every one would know where and when and would remember it like it was a national secret.

 

The reason everyone gets flack from parents is because the boys don't care enough to remember and that means that if Johnnie goofs off too much the parents won't be able to put a "I'm proud of my Eagle Scout" bumper sticker on their SUV. What would the neighbors say and how will this boy who can't remember anything ever get into a good college? For the want of a horse, the kingdom was lost.

 

If a troop must rely on 1) a web page, 2) a newsletter, 3) sending out individual e-mails, 4) PL's making announcements, and 5) PL's making phone calls, then there's something other than communication seriously wrong with the situation. It sounds like this troop is a serious candidate for Ritalin therapy.

 

This is overkill! Get real. When I was young (a few years back when it snowed uphill both ways) we would get a permission slip for a field trip from the teacher, we would take it home, give to Mom, she'd sign it and we'd take it back. If not WE DIDN'T GO and WE caught hell from Mom. It was never the teacher's fault, it was an exercise in teaching responsibility and we had to learn it for ourselves.

 

I would also take issue with the PL not getting credit for rank advancement because his membership was irresponsible. That "requirement" is totally unjustified and put's a person's success in the hands of others, irresponsible others at that. All that teaches is to avoid being a PL at all cost and if elected, turn it down. Being a PL does not mean babysitting, it means teaching leadership and leadership means responsible patrol members.

 

Stosh

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I don't think it is unreasonable to have a yearly calendar and as many families have multiple kids, trips for work, and other obligations, advance planning can be crucial to getting participation.

 

I also don't think it is the SM's job to do this. Has your CC been to training? If not, s/he might benefit from attending. If so, maybe a reminder of the actual roles of different positions is in order.

 

 

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Wonderful Sunday All

I guess the short answer is if the boys dont learn communication here, then where?

 

We once had a family where the mother was always complaining that she didnt know what was going on in the troop. She was on her younger sons pack committee where she had a controlling reputation. When her second son joined the troop, she joined as a Troop committee member. At our first new parents meeting, she announced to everyone that she designed a troop communications network, which didnt include the scouts anywhere in the process. It was a big complicated network, but she assured us she could handle the task. I hated to have to explain that this was a boy run troop and communication was their responsibility. And I could tell by her deer in the headlights look that she wasnt happy. SHe just never understood the idea of her sons learning something from their scouting experience. Her older son stayed in our troop, but she and the younger son left that month for another troop.

 

Another time there was a point where the adults decided the scouts would take full responsibility for starting and finishing troop meetings. It was a struggle for a while, but the main motivation for the PLC to get control was from the parents waiting outside in the cold 20 to 30 minutes to pick up their sons. Leave the struggles up to the scouts, with a little quiet wisdom from the adults, they will figure it out.

 

Another story! The patrol leader didnt call to find out if the grub master purchased the food for the next campout and as it turns out, he wasnt going and didnt tell anyone. They realized their situation as they were leaving the parking lot for camp. Communication improved a lot for that patrol.

 

Same thing happened once when the SPL got sick, but didn't call anyone for a Saturday activity. He learned a lot from his ASPL at the next PLC.

 

At what point do we let our children act like adults. The troop is a safe place to do just that.

 

I love this scouting stuff.

 

Barry

 

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Stosh, in our troop the Patrol Leader just needs to call his patrol. He doesn't need them to remember or inform their parents of anything.

 

As a scout is trustoworthy all we ask is that the Patrol Leader call the Senior Patrol after he called his entire patrol. The "phone tree" is started by the Scoutmaster who calls the Senior Patrol Leader who calls the Patrol Leaders who calls their patrol and at the end the PLs call the SPL.

 

The Patrol Leader's Council is the group that developed and passed this. If the boys want to hold themselves to that then let it be.

 

Also if a troop has to lean on multiple ways for communication then so be it. The OA Advisors and Officers Handbook informs them that if a scout only:

 

Hears Something they remember it 10% of the time

See something they remember it 20% of the time

See and hear something they remember it 65% of the time

See, hear, and have it in writing they remember it 80% of time

 

It further tells us that in order to successfully promote an activity its members should involve a combination of newsletters & website, calendar distribution, special fliers, OA Troop Reps, and phone calls before activities.

 

Today many of our scouting Quality or Centinenal Awards depend on a precentage of members participating in activities and in an increase of members.

 

Different parents and scouts prefer different methods of communicating. In order to meet our requirements for these awards we need to communicate with each of them and then have them remember in order to have the precentages for these requirements.

 

 

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I'd work with the CC to find a parent who can do communication tasks - hopefully with that person using the boys to do some of the work. The SPL should be designating and working with a lower APL/PL to help out.

 

In the absence of a designated adult leader, it seems like the CC ought to be carrying a substantial load of the comunication responsibility.

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We tell the boys things at meetings, to make sure they know what's coming up.

 

But all official communication occurs over the email yahoo group. There are usually several emails that go out as we approach each event, reminding people about it - listing who is signed up, when they need to be there, what they need to bring, etc.

 

That's pretty much it. We don't do anything paper. No newsletters that go home (although the SPL, CC and SM send out periodic emails with info and calendars), no permission slips, no phone calls, no individual emails.

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>>I'd work with the CC to find a parent who can do communication tasks - hopefully with that person using the boys to do some of the work. The SPL should be designating and working with a lower APL/PL to help out.

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To All,

 

 

The process of "phone trees" has come up often here, and is a process that's fairly old and successful. However, I've realized that a message "sent", doesn't equal to a message "received." I guess this can include newsletters, notices, e-mails, as well as phone calls.

When I ask about the success of info being sent out using a phone tree, I get lots of concerns. The Patrol Leader calls a Scout in his patrol, and he's not home. Does he leave a message with a family member and assume that he has accomplished his mission? What if no one answers, but he leaves a message? Has he completed the task? Or should the requirement of the phone tree be that he must make personal contact with each Scout for the message to have been successfully received? What if no one answers the phone, and it just rings and rings and rings. Can the PL say that he tried, and consider the task complete? This "phone tree" can be very time consuming, even if it's the adult leaders needing to pass on new information.

 

sst3rd

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Thank you Barry! We have a couple of parents in our group who absolutely insist on doing an end-run around the MB process, and who attempt to set up meetings for their children. One of them in particular gets so upset with me because I just won't do it. My answer is always that I'm thrilled to work with her children as soon as they contact me. They've known me since they were 5 and 6 years old, I was both of their den leaders, they see me weekly at troop meetings and have both my phone and email addresses. Not like it is a hardship for them to find/talk with me! I'm certain their parent sees this as me being stand-offish or putting barriers between the boys and their goal. I see it as teaching them to do things and take responsibility for themselves. Same is true of patrol calls, etc..

 

 

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We have a monthly newsletter, a very comprehensive website (troop90bsa.org) and produce a yearly calendar. I also send out Email reminders of upcoming events, what money/permission slips are due, etc. usually weekly. We are approaching 40 scouts, and it takes only a few minutes to do a group Email.

 

Dale

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